Spring Lawn Maintenance and Seeding
John Fulton, Extension County Director - University of Illinois
by John Fulton, University of Illinois Extension
Here we are in the first half of March, and the forsythia is in bloom. This marks the beginning of the crabgrass germination. It is an entire month early, when compared to average. Applications of crabgrass preventers are usually repeated in four to six weeks, but two repeated applications may be suggested this year due to the very early season.
Use of a crabgrass preventer is very effective, and the most common way to attack the problem. There are a few products out there, and they are often combined with fertilizer. They all basically kill small seeds as they germinate. They will also do the same with grass seed you have sown, so the two operations do not work together. If you sow seed, you live with the crabgrass for the year. Timing is critical for crabgrass control, and we may have already missed the first flush of germinating seed due to the very early season. Unless, the young seedlings get frozen.
As for seeding grass, March 15 to April 1 is the recommended spring period in our area. It’s a very narrow window, but with purpose. New grass seed needs time to germinate and develop a strong root system before hot weather arrives. The right type of seed to use varies. Sunny locations do well with Kentucky bluegrass, while shaded areas tend to do better with red or chewings fescue. Perennial ryegrass provides quicker germination and cover. Blending all three is a recommended practice, and you can even purchase blends already made up. The blends help with conditions, diseases, and insects. When one type struggles, the others can tolerate and help fill in areas in the lawn. The recommended seeding rates are four pounds per 1000 square feet in new seedings, and two pounds per 1000 in overseeding existing turf to thicken it up or help fill small bare areas.
Starting your own transplants can still be done for the warm loving plants such as tomatoes and peppers. We usually figure about six weeks from the transplant date for starting the seeds. The recommended outdoor transplanting time for these is going to be in May, after the frost-free date. You should use a sterile growing medium to start seeds in. There are several kinds of soilless germinating mixes, potting soils, peat cubes, and compressed peat pellets that are available. These media are generally free from insects, diseases, and weeds. Enough fertilizer is generally present in these to allow for three or four weeks of plant growth.